Writer-director Luke Sparke’s Occupation launched on 17 screens last weekend, sparking dozens of complaints from people around Australia who can’t see the alien invasion thriller.
Distributed by Pinnacle Films, the film isn’t screening in large parts of the country including the Sydney CBD and northern beaches, Queensland apart from the Gold Coast and north Brisbane and Tasmania, while Reading Cinemas Belmont is the only WA location.
At some cinemas the film, which stars Temuera Morrison, Jacqueline McKenzie, Dan Ewing, Bruce Spence, Felix Williamson and Stephany Jacobsen, is only playing once a day.
Set in a small Australian country town after an alien invasion has engulfed the planet, the plot follows a small group of survivors who form an army to fight back against vastly superior enemy forces.
Advance screenings and a long social media campaign clearly whetted the appetites of cinemagoers, who flooded social media with protests like these:
James Fry: Shame it’s not showing anywhere near me 😢
Craig Anderson: Occupation I’m really disappointed [after] all the hype and hardly any session times. Why? This is why Aussie films are hard to support because you make it difficult to see them. Come on, we’ve all been listening to the hype for over 12 months and this is what we get.
Corrie Taurima: I had really high hopes for this movie but once again we have stuffed things up with very limited release and school holidays finishing. Very poor marketing!!!!
Timothy Eade: I’ve been waiting for this movie to come out but guess what? Only one cinema in the Newcastle and Hunter region has it playing, but the worst thing is that they only have it on once a day. Typical, just because it’s an Australian movie they do this all the time. But for blockbusters like Skyscraper they have it at all cinemas. This is so wrong.
Kim Peterson: Omg it’s so irritating that it’s not supported by local cinemas. My local Reading just told me not all films can be shown, to which I replied that I’ve been waiting for this movie for 2 bloody months and they should be supporting a local blockbuster. Guess I’ll be waiting for the dvd 😭
Tony Camilleri: C’mon bring this out to country towns. At least Bendigo.
The sci-fi thriller grossed $20,000 from limited sessions last weekend, which brings the total to $43,000 including previews.
Sparke told IF: “’I’m extremely thankful for the locations in the first week. I’m all for a much more targeted roll-out with Aussie films to see if it lights a fire. That said, we’ve been inundated by Australians wanting to see this film but locations are few and far between in the eastern cities, WA and non-existent in Tasmania. We’ve heard that audience and we are working on a targeted expansion.”
Adelaide-based Wallis Cinemas consultant Bob Parr described the opening figures at its locations in Noarlunga and Mount Barker as okay considering the opposition, observing: “Several big films in the marketplace doesn’t make it easy. We will now look at fitting it into our provincial sites.”
Majestic Cinemas is showing Occupation in Port Macquarie and Singleton. “Not huge numbers at either but it is school holidays so they might get a slight bump during the week,” said CEO Kieren Dell. “It is good to see different genres of Australian films though, such as sci-fi in this case. What we need are more Australian family films like Paper Planes and Oddball from a few years ago, that came in a year and then nothing after that. Diversity is the key.”
Noting the social media complaints, Dell said: “It shows how important distribution is to success. If your product isn’t out there, it can’t be sold. So choosing to release in holidays is a two-edged sword as smaller sites (anything under 4-5 screens) just won’t have room for it against the other fare, and by the time they might have some room everyone has moved on.”
Saban Films is launching the film in the US this week. Sparke and producers Carly Imrie and Carmel Imrie plan to start shooting the sequel next month.